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Message to Graduates: Concentrate on Your Performance Under the Lights

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” – Dr. Seuss

If only the direction of a life journey were so easy to initiate and navigate. Never simple or certain, the times and challenges of the past few years has made the journey to a new job even more uncertain for so many graduating college seniors this summer. As thousands of students spill out of colleges and universities across America and around the world most are eager to get started on the rest of their life and look forward to a career full of milestones and rewards. Despite a persistent and shrinking economy and job market, today’s graduates can still feel comfortable that the years of study and expense will result in career choices and gains equal to the effort and money spent.

A recent report, published by Anthony Carnevale and Stephen Rose of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, analyzed several sets of government data to show that job opportunities for college-educated workers have grown and though the makeup of the labor force has shifted, the change still favors those with a college degree. “It is time to recognize that the transition from an industrial to a post-industrial economy has resulted in a shift away from an economy rooted in high school-level skills to an economy anchored in postsecondary education and training,” Carnevale and Rose said. Another survey by Michigan State University reports that hiring for college graduates will increase by 16 percent this year. So with all the positive trends in the job market, why is there such a large disconnect between the newly graduated job candidates and employers who will be doing the hiring?

While many companies have open positions to fill, finding qualified candidates is proving to be a challenge. Employers, recently surveyed by Career Builder, indicated that colleges were insufficiently preparing students for the soft skills necessary to compete in the real job world. Graduating students fail to understand that just because they have completed their college education, qualifying their newly acquired technical skills in a work environment will demand that they demonstrate an ability to apply skills such as; oral and written communication, problem solving and leadership.

Many graduates are learning that the most important set of skills needed to land that first job were not part of their college curriculum. Still others don’t understand that adding value to the organizations efforts is required for membership; bringing something worthwhile to the daily employer/employee relationship is imperative. Trading attendance at that early morning class for a few extra winks of sleep has far less consequence than being late to work or dusting off that inconvenient meeting.

Developing a good work ethic may be the single most important endeavor for those entering the workplace. A strong work ethic requires developing a targeted focus on putting forth a consistent effort to meeting an employer’s organizational goals and objectives. Success is wholly dependent on a establishing and demonstrating a set of personal traits and conduct:

Reliability – Employer’s place significant value on punctuality, reliability and dependability

Dedication – Those who are dedicated to performing well at every level are likely to experience fewer job changes over their career and receive far greater personal benefits from a working relationship.

Productivity – A high level of productivity is often the result of figuring out how to work smarter, rather than harder. The more productive you are, the more beneficial to the company you will become and the greater a career will flourish.

Cooperation – A cooperative workplace is highly valued in the business environment. Working together with fellow associates, finding collective solutions and being an active member of the workplace team will gain the respect of both co-workers and management.

Character – Yes, character still matters! Honesty, trustworthiness and integrity are highly valued by all employers and fellow associates who strive to achieve a higher standard of conduct. Practicing these important traits everyday will distinguish you from the rest of the field.

It is unlikely that many students ever experienced a course offering the fundamentals and principles of establishing a strong work ethic. But getting that new job may just be more dependent on these important soft skills than anything a graduating student ever learned in the classroom. The schooling may be done, but the training and roadwork is just beginning.

As one great champion, Joe Frazier advises, “You can map out a fight plan or a life plan, but when the action starts, it may not go the way you planned, and you’re down to your reflexes – your training. That’s where your roadwork shows. If you cheated on that in the dark of morning, you’re getting found out now, under the bright lights.”

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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